Transcript of Interview: ABC Central Coast with Scott Levi



29 April 2014

Scott Levi: The Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs, is in the electorate of Dobell today with Karen McNamara looking at some of the infrastructure that was funded at the last election, and Mr Briggs joins us on the line. Good to have you with us.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning, Scott, and it's great to be here.

Scott Levi: Yes. What have you had a look at today?

Jamie Briggs: Oh, well, this morning we signed off on one of Karen's election commitments to ensure that we're delivering upon them as quickly as possible, and that was a boat ramp at Norah Head, which is an important facility for the tourism opportunities in this part of the world—this beautiful part of the world. So that's 700,000, which Karen committed to in the election campaign, and some six and a half months later we're signing off on it, and that work will begin straight away and I think it's planned to be finished by the next summer. So that's a good investment for our local jobs and opportunities.

And we're off to now see the local jobs and skills centre, which is another commitment, a substantial commitment, that the Coalition made in the lead-up to the election. And then looking at I think an important road infrastructure investment with the Ridgeway Road, which was committed to $2.4 million to get on and fix that road to make it easier, safer, and more productive.

Scott Levi: And did they tell you a little bit about Norah Head as a safe launching area? I guess it's one of the few spots that are a safe haven with that, you know, Norah Head. Soldier's Point copping the prevailing southerly swell, and how it's one of the few safe launching spots in the coastal area.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. In my own electorate, we have a similar, beautiful coastline where people like to go off and fish either recreationally or commercially and it is important that you have the facilities there to ensure that you've got a safe and also usable boat ramp facilities, and I think the plans which the Mayor showed me just before seem like that they will invest quite heavily on building a high class boat ramp there for recreational and commercial fishers, and it'll help with the tourism opportunities, obviously, through this part of the world.

Scott Levi: So what's the total spend on that project? The Council also injecting some funds. The state injecting funds.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, they are.

Scott Levi: Because's more than just a federal issue, isn't it?

Jamie Briggs: Oh, absolutely, yes. In fact, it is a project which is both with Council and State Government commitments. I think the total project is about $3 million, New South Wales Government giving just over $1 million, and the Wyong Shire Council's doing the same. So these things are never cheap, as you know, but you want to get them right when you make the investment and then they're long lasting and they'll bring much benefit to the area.

Scott Levi: Have you had a look at the Ridgeway yet?

Jamie Briggs: No. We're heading there after the visit to the skill centre and we'll have a look at that. That's an important commitment and, I think, if I can briefly say, it's an important commitment and our overall message, which we're talking about regularly, about our action—our economic action plan that we'll be talking about in the Budget when it comes to infrastructure, if we invest in improving roads for the Central Coast.

I think that one of the great investments coming up from Sydney this morning will be the NorthConnex investment in Sydney, which of course will go under Pennant Hills Road and make that connection—the missing link. So you've got a much easier drive from Sydney up the Central Coast. That's a major commitment from the Coalition Government of $400-odd million, which are matched by the state governments, and that project will get underway later this year.

But also, with local roads like the Ridgeway, which will help improve the productive capacity of our people and make for safer and quicker journeys, and this is, as I say, a part of our plan that we'll be talking about more in the Budget. We've got $36 billion worth of commitments over the five years across the country, and we'll have, I think it's fair to say, much more in the Budget we'll be talking about when it comes to investment and infrastructure.

Scott Levi: Will there be a way to streamline the NBN spending to use that mix of technologies that you're hoping to bring the better broadband to people with? Will that also free up some money?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, Malcolm Turnbull's working through all the NBN issues and he's doing a comprehensive review about the rollout. What we found with the NBN was that it was in complete shambles when we got to government, and there are patchy parts of the country which deserve quicker attention than political maps were having. So what Malcolm is doing is looking at the service level across the country at the moment and trying to prioritise the NBN Co to upgrade the NBN, or upgrade the broadband in areas where there is genuine need. I suspect on the Central Coast, being an outer metropolitan area, there would be more need here than what there will be in closer parts in the city, and in that sense...

Scott Levi: Well... we're a standalone region, both recognised at a federal and state level that...

Jamie Briggs: Exactly.

Scott Levi: ...where people in business are saying, well, if that fibre optic is running right by the Tuggerah Business Park there, where you're visiting, to see the jobs and skills centre, why can't it be in to those business parks? Why wasn't that the first priority? And speaking with Karen McNamara and Lucy Wicks, they seem to be bending Mr Turnbull's ear to get it to business as quickly as possible. Is that something that's happening around the country with this infrastructure?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, there are two no better advocates than Lucy and Karen, that's for sure. I'm sure Malcolm's under quite a bit of pressure to deliver in that sense. But look, he is doing what you would expect a new minister to do—to work through the detail and come out with a comprehensive plan which is deliverable, Scott, rather than just being talked about as an aspiration or, you know, as we heard for so many years from the Labor Party, so many promises weren't delivered upon. I think what Malcolm wants to do is make sure when the NBN launches, it's—has finished its comprehensive review and has a plan. It's something that people can have genuine faith that it's going to be delivered.

Scott Levi: So it sort of seems a bit of a no brainer to the local members and the local people that if it's already into the exchange Berkeley Vale, already into the exchange at Gosford, Erina Business Hub, Tuggerah Business Hub, those places where they need it to employ people in high tech business should get it first. But I guess we'll see once the review is completed. What are your thoughts about the Council's push for a regional airport in the Wyong area? They're very serious about it. I know that these sorts of things fall within federal boundaries when it comes to aviation. Are you privy to those plans?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, they've mentioned we've had some discussions about it earlier and how it's parted from (inaudible) plan for growth in the Central Coast and it's been something that's been talked about for some time. The Council's raised it with me already this morning. I think we'll probably have a further discussion later today, but, we are for infrastructure which will grow our economy, and if there are some things that the federal Government can do to help ensure that an airport is built, we'll obviously look to do that with the Council and with our local members. We are, as you've seen with Western Sydney—with the announcement of the Western Sydney airport just a couple of weeks ago—very committed to infrastructure, which will help grow our economy, and airports are important linkages, as you rightly say. Central Coast is a significant region unto itself, and it should have appropriate infrastructure. And if the Council's got good plans for that, we'd be very interested in talking to them about it.

Scott Levi: And with the plans for a fast train and the station likely to be Ourimbah, the upgrade of the Ridgeway would be quite timely, really. Two and a half million dollars there to make it a safer, more durable road. It's pretty dodgy at the moment, but that is one way for many people to access Ourimbah. So if that's the place where the Central Coast station is going to be, then that might be a change, with government getting the infrastructure in first before the development comes.

Jamie Briggs: Well, that's a good point. One of the challenges of the federal Government is we don't actually build the infrastructure when it comes to roads; that is a state and local government responsibility, but we do provide significant funding, as you've seen today with our $2.5 million commitment to the Ridgeway. But, we think you've got to get the framework of the country right. If you can get the networks connecting well, then people can move about easier and they can be more productive, and that's absolutely part of our economic action plan that will be outlined by Joe Hockey on 13 May in the Budget. So we're, as I say, very committed to spending significant amounts of infrastructure investment on the appropriate infrastructure on the Central Coast. I think we're making some really important investments guided by, I think, excellent local members in Karen McNamara and Lucy Wicks.

Scott Levi: Alright. Well, we'll let you go, but it's interesting history with the missing link. The Pennant Hills Road, in that the former member for Robertson and Roads Minister in the Howard government, Jim Lloyd, was the one who instigated the Pearlman plan, the first official plan to have the proper north-south bypass of Sydney, so it's sort of cyclical in a way that you're speaking about this today.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, can I say on that, I mean it's a great example of where the private sector can come together with government and put together a plan which would get a piece of infrastructure which wouldn't have otherwise gone ahead. And, coming up, as I say, from Sydney this morning it's quite absurd to leave the city on a terrific piece of infrastructure and then basically hit suburban roads before you get back onto another terrific piece of infrastructure, and what the NorthConnex will do is obviously link those two. It will be a substantial project over the next couple of years, but I think people on the Central Coast will certainly benefit from it. It will connect Melbourne and Brisbane without a traffic light, which is quite a remarkable feat.

Scott Levi: It certainly is the missing link, isn't it? It's a proper bypass, not just for the Central Coast people but for the people of Australia, past Australia's bigger cities. Sometimes we don't want to go in there.

Jamie Briggs: That's exactly right. And most of our goods that are moved on our freight networks, of course, are indeed looking to get to and from their destinations as quickly as—and as efficiently as possible, and that will bring down costs for all Australians. If our economy works more efficiently and we're more productive, then that will be good for all of us.

Scott Levi: I know you've got to go, but just—how does it feel when things do happen like that? When you see that on your watch, this will be built? I guess whatever happens from here on in politics, that is something you can say to the kids—look, you know, we had a part to play in that. Those sorts of things are the truly significant things, aren’t they?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, I like to see it get built, and then we can have those discussions that we're pushing along.

Scott Levi: No crowing just yet?

Jamie Briggs: No, no. That's right. No time for a crowing from a croweater just yet.

Scott Levi: Alright, Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, thanks for joining us on the tour of Dobell today. Jamie Briggs, getting a look at the Central Coast. It's good to see the federal politicians getting the tour. His seat is in the Adelaide Hills.